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Photo by: Jo Salkey
Photo by: Tim Hartman

Newcastle Island

Nanaimo Habour, home to many marvelous views and vistas, is popular for its sighting of emerald isle of Newcastle. Although known as a protected provincial park, Newcastle Island is much more than a nature reserve—its wealthy history makes it one of the most unique locations around Vancouver Island.

Located minutes across the water from Nanaimo Habour, though seemingly a world away, once on Newcastle, explode free roaming wildlife, totem pole sites, abandoned resort locations and many impressive natural experiences.

Fast Facts

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The population is 0, except the park authorities that live there temporarily.

The public ferry to Newcastle Island can be accessed during summer months only. To access it, go north of downtown Nanaimo, to Maffeo-Sutton Park. After summer, private water taxis are available to take you around the harbor and to Newcastle.

Newcastle is friendly for visiting, offering its peaceful shores, picnic tables, campsites recreational equipment rental and awesome walking trails. More than 50 berthing facilities are available for boats arriving around Mark Bay.

Local Attractions


Sea Caves: 

Sea caves can be found along the north and the west shores; they were once used as ancient burial sites.


Camping on Newcastle

Camping is available all year long, but reservations must be made. 18 campsites can be found all within walking distance on the dock. Fire wood can also be purchased on the island.


The Pavilion

Initially build in 1931, it has been recently restored. There are scheduled theatre productions, seasonal dances and other special events.


Bird Watching

The coastline, filled with thousands of birds of different species makes this island a birder’s paradise. The best views of waterfowl in action can be found at Mallard Lake and Shoreline Trail.

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Hiking

Around Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park 22 kilometers of light hiking trail look can be found. The grandest viewpoint of Giovanda Lookout is the crescendo. The lookout can be found alongside Nares Point Trail, near the northwest tip of the island. The cliffs tend to drop away dramatically in front of the lookout, offering marvelous views stretching across Lower Mainland and Strait of Georgia.

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Canoeing and Kayaking

 Newcastle Island provides some scenic viewing and there are relatively mild currents around the island.

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Bicycles

Riders are allowed on Mallard Lake Trail and Kanaka Bay Trail in Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, but unfortunately are not allowed on some ferries. These trails and pathways on Newcastle are shared with pedestrians.

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Interpretive programs

Regularly scheduled in the park during summer season mostly, the programs may include slide shows, guided walk, special events and children’s programs. You can find more information at Pavilion or on information boards at dock heads.

History

Coast Salish people used Newcastle Island for fishing. They would leave no signs attesting to their villages when they left for the season. In 1791, when the Spanish arrived, and even later when Hudson Bay Company explored Newcastle, they initially believed the island was empty of any human life because Coast Salish would move at the end of the every season.

The island’s sandstone, which was found to be exceptional grade and quality, was discovered during coal mining on Nanaimo. The popular U.S Mind Building in San Francisco was built from the quarried stone found on this island. In 1900 Herring and Salmon salteries marked a new era as a new economic provider for Newcastle.

The Canadian Pacific Railway found the island as a good place to create itws private island resort. The railway experienced success for a few years, but it was sold to the city of Nanaimo in 1955.  Newcastle was turned into a marine park in 1961.

Before European Discovery

Sayseten and Clotsun are two Native villages that are located on Newcastle. It is now believed that Sayestsen people would live on Newcastle from January to April, when they would catch herring spawning before moving to Gabriola Island, where they would stay until August. The only thing know about the other village, Clotsun, is that its name means Protector.

Snuneymuxw burial rituals have been some of legend. The often-told legend that mention deceased being placed in burial chests in Newcastle caves is false, the actual burial rites involved the decreased being placed in the trees. The island got its name after the mining town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, England, when coal was initially discovered in Nanaimo in 1849.